Recently I experienced one of those long-in-the-tooth moments — another of the more frequently occurring signs that I’ve crested the hill; an indication that, even though I may not be in the September of my years, it’s definitely very late August.
I had arrived home after a fun evening watching my husband play rock star at one of the local parks. He’s in an oldies band and I must say he’s pretty amazing — he can still dance like he’s only 55!
The minute I crossed my threshold I knew something was up. The house smelled funky; a curious mix of over-ripe dog and 6-week-old, leftover green beans. The most sensible thing to do would have been to wash the dog bed and clean out the fridge, but after dancing my little heart out to strains of “Honky Tonk Woman,” I didn’t have the energy. The next best option was to cover up the odiferous fumes.
I opted for Realtor trick No. 1: If you want to improve the ambience of a house, make the air pleasantly fragrant.
I opened the spice cabinet and grabbed cloves and cinnamon, dumped some in a pan of water and set it to boil. I knew that there was just the slightest chance that my erstwhile Mick Jagger might walk in the door and think that there was an apple pie in the oven, but I quickly came to my senses. Silly me! The thought would never cross his mind, because no significant cooking had gone on in our household since 2002, the year our youngest graduated from high school.
Regardless, I could boil water. Soon, the sweet smelling concoction began to simmer and, confident that I had masked any offensive dog or refrigerator emanations, I proceeded to tidy up. But a quick glance at the tin of cloves and an image of my sweet, departed mother flashed into my head. I recalled with fondness how amused the family was when we cleaned out her kitchen and discovered a cache of ancient spices. Major hilarity ensued, and everyone had a rollicking good time perusing the early 20th century dates on the tins.
Sooo ... just out of curiosity, I studied the can of cloves. Hmmm ... barcode. It can’t be that old, bar codes haven’t been around all that long, right? I glanced down at the cinnamon container: McCormick, 1986. Perhaps barcodes had been in use a lot longer than I remembered. Or then again, maybe that was the year the company was founded. I checked the cloves, McCormick 1977. Guess not. It got worse as I rummaged through the rest of the stash. Mace and cumin, 1974.
So ... perhaps it had been longer than 10 years since I cooked. But really, who uses mace and cumin? Although in 1974 I must have thought I needed not one, but two tins of cumin! Mace? Why in the world would I have bought it? Maybe it was my ill-informed 20-something wanting to protect herself on the hardscrabble streets of San Luis Obispo.
Then, there was marjoram; no date, but you couldn’t beat the price — 37 cents. And the ever-popular curry powder; no date, but $0.29. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! My most impressive find though, came with a container of pumpkin pie spice — no date, rusted, old-school tin container. I couldn’t stop myself. Before I threw them all in the recycle bin, I had to do a little research on eBay. There it was — pumpkin pie spice, rusted container, dust on top. Vintage ’60s, $5.25. SCORE!
I obviously carried my mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice through every move, starting with our 1967, Pomona apartment. I was glad Mick wasn’t home. I think he already harbors the belief that I dwell on the fringes of hoarderdom.
I am proud to report that I found all of my antique spices on eBay — some for 10 times their original value! We’re in the money now! I congratulated myself on my investment foresight and immediately wrote an amendment to my last will and testament. I directed that, upon our demise, the children check the cupboard above the toaster oven for their inheritance.
You know, as I write this, I’m feeling good and my house still smells pretty wonderful. I just may bake a pumpkin pie for the rock star!
Suzanne Davis is happily retired and living in the South County with her husband and their three dogs.